Young Memphians join the fight against blight

MEMPHIS, TN (WMC) - About 100 teens showed up to Benjamin L. Hooks Library on Monday to kick off the 'Flight Blight Team.'

Over the next eights weeks, the team made up of young people ages 14-24 will be paid $9 per hour to clean up areas from Northaven to South Memphis.

"We get to help people around the city, clean up and make our city better," Danielle Harper, a member of the Flight Blight Team, said. "It's always good to help out around where you stay because it's where you stay, and you should take pride in it."

This cleanup project was the brainchild of Shelby County Mayor Mark Luttrell.

The county picks up 30 tons of trash a month and paying the students benefits both the city and the community, he said.

"We're going to paying our students well, so it's going to cost us a little money," Luttrell said. "I see a community good that goes beyond just a clean city."

In addition to the work, the team will also take a money management class to learn how to invest and spend their money wisely.

"Right now, I am just trying to find a job, my first job," Jerquindal Kelly, 16, said.

Kelly attends Memphis Academy of Science and Engineering, but now he's done for the summer hoping he can find work.

"Mainly because I'm bored a lot of times. I just want something to do," he said.

Some private investors have stepped up to help fight blight while giving teens a summer job as well. Teens can also take advantage of that program - Memphis Jobs For Teens.

Tavares Smith runs Memphis Jobs For Teens, which is a privately funded program with silent investors in Memphis and California.

"The investors are from Memphis originally, they have family from Memphis, they understand right now there's an economic gap and they want to bridge that gap and help people," Smith said.

Students with the Memphis Jobs For Teens program are expected to work 10-20 hours a week in one of three areas: washing cars, fighting blight in Orange Mound, and rehabbing houses.

The jobs are unlimited and organizers said they only ask for the 13- to 18-year-olds to have a positive attitude, be on time, and work hard.

"The best students get to continue year round like these young men here," Smith said.

Another job fair is scheduled for Monday at 8 p.m. at 1404 Airways Boulevard in Memphis.

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